I’ve recently returned from three months in the Spanish mountains living with 17 other women (13 of which were being ordained). I don’t know about you but I can find it quite difficult to describe an experience but here is a wee taste of what it’s been like.
It was a beautiful day when we arrived, the skies were blue and clear and the temperature was warm. We’d been advised to pack for all kinds of weather as the mountain climate can change really quickly.
Growing up in the UK I had no idea what this actually meant but a few weeks life in the mountains I started to get the idea that when they said ‘changeable’ they really meant it. There were times when we’d walk to the shrine room under clear blue skies and within minutes there could be black clouds, thunderstorms and a temperature drop of some degress.This made for some of the most dramatic and beautiful skies I have witnessed. The place felt very elemental and the landscape really lends itself to contemplation. Often I would go and sit on what we called the Vajra seat. A place where I could watch the weather rolling in from miles away or lay on the ground gazing into the blueness of the sky. I could sit for hours just watching the landscape far away from the main house.
Sometimes someone else, with the same idea, would come and sit down and we’d have a chat or just sit in silence. That’s one of the things I really enjoyed about living in a community of so many, the times we shared either in conversation or in silence (and we had a lot of silence).
For me, the landscape of Akashavana needed some getting used to. I am quite scared of hills and Akashavana isn’t just hills but hills with scree!! This would mean that you could slip really easily if you weren’t being very careful. It was a great lesson in what it is to be mindful. I realised quite soon that I couldn’t walk to the shrine room (or anywhere for that matter) and look at the view at the same time. If I wanted to appreciate the view I needed to stop walking (to just do one thing at a time).
I felt a mixture of emotions by the end of the three months, part of me was itching to leave, to not have to share space with 17 other people and another part of me was aware of how normal it felt to be living and practicing together.
I am pleased to be back and look forward to seeing everyone soon.